Page last updated at 20:03 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Tories call polyclinic roll-out in London 'absurd'

Hounslow polyclinic
Polyclinics offer GP and diagnostic services

A government scheme to reorganise healthcare in London by moving services from hospitals to polyclinics has been called "absurd" by the Conservatives.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said it was assumed wrongly the changes would lead to "dramatic" cost cutting.

The criticism came as the Conservatives tabled a motion in the Commons calling for a halt to the scheme.

Health Minister Mike O'Brien said there was an over-reliance on A&E units and added that the Tories had "no vision".

Last April seven new polyclinics or super-surgeries - which bring diagnostic, GP and several hospital services under one roof - were opened in London, following 2007 recommendations by Lord Darzi.

A further 24 polyclinics are expected to open in London in the next five years. Tories warned that five out of eight A&E departments in north-west London alone could close under the plans.

'Completely unaccountable'

Mr Lansley said the reorganisation was based on assumptions that 55% of patients would be catered for at these centres, reducing the number of patients heading for hospitals by 60%.

He said: "They [ministers] are making extreme assumptions about the ability to transfer activity from within hospitals into a community context and assuming that there are, alongside that, dramatic reductions in cost.

"How absurd it is to be spending millions of pounds shutting down hospital services in order to be spending millions more to open new polyclinics."

Responding, Mr O'Brien said: "Reconfiguring London to deliver better services has been in the 'too difficult' category for too many governments.

"As a result, Londoners have put up with the worst service than many other parts of the country."

He criticised the Conservatives for having no vision or new ideas and instead playing to "public fears".

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said decisions were made by bodies which were "often completely unaccountable" to patients.

"We deserve to know what is being planned behind closed doors," he added.

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